All together now: Sailing the High Seas with the IB

All together now: Sailing the High Seas with the IB

Posted: 29/07/2019

The ‘lessons’ we learned on TENACIOUS...

In June 2019, twenty-four intrepid IB students set sail on the Jubilee Sailing Trust’s 65m tall ship, the three-mast-barque Tenacious. Miss Jung and Vivienne Z W share their experiences of the trip.

1. Teamwork and what it really means.

“2, 6… heave!” we yelled together at the top of our lungs as we pulled the sheet with full force. When you are all literally in the same boat, you will for sure learn a lesson or two about teamwork.

2. Efficiency is not everything.

A train from The Hague to the Thames Barrier takes just about six hours and twenty-seven minutes. To choose to take four and a half days at sea reminded me of the extent to which our obsession with efficiency affects our every-day lives. My voyage with JST was so special to me because for once, it was not about efficiency.

3. Nature is incredible!

I closed my eyes and felt a gentle breeze of wind. The thought that this same wind was currently filling our sails and pushing this 65m vessel forwards, and that the water beneath us was carrying us all the way across the North Sea, was impressive. I gained a lot of respect and appreciation from spending all that time paying attention to the elements of nature – wind speed, wind direction, waves – the few things that are so powerful we cannot control them.

The students and their teachers – now enlisted as the “voyage crew” on board in four round-the-clock watches learnt how to pull on the braces, ease the sheets and heave for England.

4. Accessibility can change lives.

Tactile strips along the decks, Braille signage, lifts and ramps, vibrating alarms – these are just a few examples of the adjustments I found around Tenacious, one of only two ships worldwide to be adapted to the needs of a wide range of abilities. Small, but life changing to some. Living with a disability is not easy and we cannot pretend it is. However, closing the gap between impossible and just about possible can make all the difference to someone. Sailing on Tenacious, I learned a lot about the little ways in which activities like sailing can be accessible to all, and how important it is to make it so.

With amazingly favourable winds, we sailed out of the Dutch harbour of Scheveningen (NL) in the Tall Ships’ Parade, and continued sailing for twenty-four hours - through the night across the North Sea and back to Old Blighty.

5. Certainty is overrated!

Are we making any stops on the way? Will we go under London Bridge when we arrive? Is it going to rain? Will we be able to sail this afternoon? “It depends” was a very common response heard throughout the week. Certainty is another obsession of ours that quickly falls apart out on sea. Frankly, nothing is guaranteed. The best way of coping with it is accepting not being in control – and that was a surprisingly huge relief!

Watch followed watch, messmen fed the crew, ropes were hauled and stowed, crew went aloft, scrubbed the decks and went lookout or steered the ship in glorious sunshine, mist, fog or dense darkness.

6. Initiative makes you a team player.

At sea, I quickly realised the importance of taking initiative. In a big team, you won’t always be needed, but a real team player is one that stays proactive rather than sits around and waits to be given something to do.

We enjoyed the calm of being at anchor, taking the RIB boats for an exciting trip to dry land, and then sailed down the English coast, with a final stop at the historic pier at Tilbury, before finally making our way up the River Thames to arrive at West India Dock.

7. Opportunities shouldn’t be taken for granted

And when they do come to you – take them! The goal I set in our initial reflection for the Leadership@Sea programme was to try as many new things as possible. This week would be about saying yes to things, gaining new experiences and learning things about myself and others, knowing that going on this voyage was, in itself, an opportunity not to be taken for granted.

Many challenges; many incredible experiences:

8. Understand the importance of details.

One degree off the course and you might end up in a different country. Get a knot wrong and your ship will be drifting off the pier while you are asleep. As much as Tenacious was an environment, where it felt okay to make mistakes, being entrusted with this responsibility was a reminder for me to appreciate the importance of every little detail.

The crew of 2019 can be proud of themselves – and they arrive back on dry land with a different perspective of what it is to be TENACIOUS in life.

9. See the beauty in everything.

Throughout the week, we saw many truly beautiful things. The parade of Tall Ships leaving The Hague on Sunday morning, the countless but unique sunsets and sunrises – the panorama view from the top of the mast. A week at sea definitely involved challenges. The first night my group was given a 12.00-4.00am night watch and having gotten up at 4:30 that same morning, we were starting to get exhausted and grumpy. But when we sat on the deck in pitch black darkness, listening to the gentle splashes of waves against the ship, I realised that there is something beautiful in everything. It is all what you chose to make it.

Acronym of TENACIOUS by Vivianne Z W

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